Igbo And Race For Presidency


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Igbo And Race For Presidency




Sam Iyiogwe



culled from VANGUARD, January 27, 2005


With a little above two years left of the present dispensation, it is clear that the jostling for political positions in the next dispensation has begun. Some of the aspirants targeting the number one position has to make hay while the sun shines. The question on the lips of political watchers now is – where goes the Presidency in 2007?

Nigeria is an amalgam of two hundred and fifty-six tribes constituting its geo-political entity. The history of how Nigeria became a country is not important here, but the important thing is that there are three major ethnic nationalities making the Nigerian nation – the Hausa/Fulani, the Yoruba and the Igbo, and there is no gainsaying the fact that a tribal tripod exists.

In the struggle for the independence of this country, Igbo personalities played a decisive role. In fact, they not only championed the cause they also charted the course, which led to the eventual handing-over of power to Nigerians by the colonial masters. However, of the three most prominent tribal blocs, the Igbo, needless to say, is the only one that has not produced an executive President in the history of this nation. The Igbo bloc has also had the least opportunity at the apex power in the military administration of the country. From the foregoing, it becomes immediately clear that the Igbo have been badly marginalised, and the situation needs very urgent redress.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives the Igbo, as well as all other ethnic groups in the country, the right to aspire to the highest elective post in the country with neither let nor hindrance. Some people hold the notion that having been defeated in the civil war, which ended in 1970, it is premature for the Igboman to aspire to the highest power-point in the country. But such argument holds no water.

This is because the constitution of the land, prepared decades after the Civil war, does not share this view. In fact, Section 39(i) sub-section 2 states: "No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disadvantage or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth". Section 15 of the same document which embodies the political objectives of Nigeria in Subsection (2) provides: "Accordingly national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited". These provisions are supportive of the Igboman’s constitutional right to occupy the executive Presidential seat.

It is noteworthy that at the end of the civil war, the prosecutors of the war for Nigeria made a declaration of "No Victor, No Vanquished" situation in Nigeria. That declaration was made to remove any feeling of secondhand citizenship on the part of the Igbo, and remove any barrier from their aspiration to the highest office in the land. The leaders further pursued a programme of rehabilitation, reconstruction and reintegration of the Igbo into the Nigerian family, which was why an Igbo, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, could have served as the Vice President in the Shehu Shagari administration, barely nine years after the cessation of civil hostilities.

However, marginalisation of the Igbo has continued unabated. The clamour for an Igbo President has remained unrealised thirty-three and half years after the civil war. By May 2007, when another executive President is expected to be sworn-in, the war would have been thirty-six and a half years old in history. It is time that the story-line is changed, by changing the course of events in the country. The burden of groaning under the heavy weight of marginalisation should be lifted to give the Igbo a sense of true reintegration.

One way of doing this is through compensation, which has been introduced into the Nigerian political systems. There was the case of the annulment of the June 12 Presidential Election of 1993, which Chief M.K.O. Abiola was seen to have won. It was on account of compensating the Yoruba for that unfortunate annulment that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired General of the Nigerian army, then very fresh from the prison for a coup plot frame up, was drafted into the contest for the Presidency, and power handed over to him in 1999. Chief Obasanjo at that point, lest we forget, lacked all that was required to contest that election in terms of morale, physique and finance. All the same, he emerged victorious because the then power brokers wanted to assuage the Yoruba angst on account of the annulled June 12 Presidential election.

That compensation should be extended to the Igbo bloc on account of the marginalisation it has gone through. Another point for the compensation is on account of the pogrom committed against the Igbo prior to and during the civil war, and also the breach of promise by the Yoruba before the secession. This will be in line with the compensation of the Jews for the war crimes perpetrated against them. Good a thing that General Yakubu Gowon, who was the Head of State during the war, sometime ago apologised for the atrocities of the war pricking the conscience of the nation. The apology should be translated into paving the way for an Igbo Presidency. After all, what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander.

The principle of rotational Presidency which has gained popular acclamation in the polity also favours the imperatives of Igbo Presidency. Even among the political game players, it was the office rotation principle that mid-wifed the zoning of the key offices. For the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the Presidency was zoned to the South-West, the Vice President to the North-East and the Senate President to the South-East among others, in the present dispensation.

It is thus immediately clear that if the key players in the ruling party which controls twenty eight of the thirty-six states of this country have the political will, they can zone the Presidency to the South-East in the next dispensation, and use the party machinery to see their candidate into that office, and in so-doing, mollify the feelings of Ndigbo, and once and for all times, put the shadows of the civil war behind this country.

In fact, most Nigerians view the principle of office rotation as the best formula for peaceful election and occupation of the presidential seat, and rotation has been introduced among political and family groupings in some states for the purposes of producing representatives into the Senate, House of Representatives, House of Assembly, traditional rulership stools and even town union executives. The office rotation principle is based on equity, fair play, justice, good judgment and the spirit of give-and-take, and should be made to prevail in determining which zone produces the president and when.

Some people tend to argue that power is acquired or obtained or wrested, and not given or handed to one or a people on a platter of gold. But the example of giving it to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was not in any position to contest on his own in 1999, proves such people wrong. It is a matter of understanding and the will-power to bring it to fruition. In that 1999 election, seventy per cent of all Igbo votes went to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. When will the Yoruba reciprocate that gesture?

Again, the question in some quarters on whether Ndigbo can produce a credible and acceptable candidate for the presidency does not arise at all. What are the qualifications for credibility and acceptability? The Igbo rank among the most educated stock in Nigeria. They are obviously the most industrious, enterprising, hardworking, innovative and painstaking stock in the country. The Igbo are achievement-oriented and prosperous, and are found in all fields of endeavour, and can bring their knowledge, exposure and experience to bear in the proper governance of this country.

The Igbo are easily the most neighbour-embracing race in Nigeria and are found in almost every village in this country, no matter how remote. They have been contributing to nation-building in diverse ways and at all imaginable levels. The Igbo have people of repute serving in different capacities within and outside the shores of this land.

It is noteworthy that the Igbo produced the highest number of presidential aspirants and candidates in the last presidential race in the country, and have indeed produced presidential candidates in all presidential elections since the nation-state came into being. It is equally clear that by the constitutional provisions, the Vice President and Senate President seats which the Igbo have occupied, are numbers two and three positions in the land.

On the demographic disadvantage assumed by some as a setback to the Igbo getting at the apex power, that is no longer tenable. Moreover, the popular concept of "live and let live", has been the philosophy of the Igbo since time immemorial. By this philosophy, the Igbo do not support injustice directed against the interest of other ethnic groups in the Nigerian family.

In terms of personalities, Ndigbo have cerebral and proven performers in the likes of Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim and several others. When the race comes, Nigeria would see the best of these people.


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